What makes a Health and Safety Mercenary?

It’s not that we fell out exactly but there was an obvious tension in the air and whilst it wasn’t said, it was clear we were just going to have to leave it and agree to disagree. John is an OSH Practitioner and friend (still, I hope) of mine and we’d been discussing how far a practitioner should go in helping operational people to complete their risk assessments. John’s view was that he’d provided training and had worked through a number of assessments with the team and he’d satisfied himself that they understood the process, so now it was really up to them to allocate the time and get the assessments done. The discussion was about risk assessments but it really could have been about countless other things. I just felt that a practitioner should provide more and better support than that. I was reminded of Mike Buttolph’s seminal articles on Styles of Safety Practice in the SHP journal in March and April 1999. Mike outlined several safety stereotypes (the Monk, the Mercenary and the Missionary) in order to explain the perceived low status of safety professionals at the time and to advocate a coaching and mentoring approach. Mercenaries see safety much like a commodity, the possession of which makes them important to an organisation. They believe that at the end of the day, only they have the required knowledge and skills to be able to do what needs to be done to the required standard. Whilst they say that managers and supervisors should own health and safety, their tendency is to do the things that really ought to be done by others because it’s in...